The following letter from Tim Knowles, the former Chair of the last search process (MRWS), appears in the current issue of The Whitehaven News. Despite previously appearing to be in direct opposition to Cumbria Trust’s stance, there now seems to be a lot of common ground between us. Tim appears to share our scepticism that the new search process is a national one, when the real target is expected to be West Cumbria again. Not one single local authority of the UK beyond West Cumbria volunteered during MRWS, and despite hints from RWM and BEIS that there are a number of interested parties, we would be surprised if they are more than wishful thinking.
Tim also makes the point that the funds being offered to the community for taking part in the process are low by international standards. As Eddie Martin, the former Leader of Cumbria County Council has frequently pointed out, we only have to look at the state of West Cumbria, with its Victorian railway system, poor roads and inadequate hospital and education facilities to see how much to believe promises of community benefits. This area has been exposed to a great deal of risk from housing the nation’s nuclear waste for two generations and has received almost nothing in return. Why should we believe that it would be different this time?
It is interesting to hear that that Tim understands that Trudy Harrison MP, Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie and DBEIS Minister Richard Harrington have been discussing an offshore Copeland site, presumably with tunnel access from Sellafield. In the new search process, the offshore strip available has been extended from 5km to 20km, and this is potentially very significant, since it is likely to include areas far enough from the Cumbrian mountains to have relatively low groundwater flow. Cumbria Trust discussed the potential of offshore Copeland here and while we have had expert advice that West Cumbria does not contain an adequate onshore site, we accept that it is possible that a good site may be found further offshore.
If Copeland is going to volunteer itself again, we would encourage them to volunteer offshore Copeland alone. We hope and expect that they have enough common sense to exclude the Lake District National Park from day one. It employs far more people than the nuclear industry, it generates more income for Cumbria and it is a World Heritage Site. The coastal strip outside the park is geologically similar to the failed Longlands Farm Nirex site, so that only leaves offshore Copeland.